Iowa Heartlanders set for three-game home series

Iowa enters this week’s homestand with a 1-1 overall record.


Jeff Sigmund

Iowa Heartlanders hockey players pursue the puck against the Kansas City Mavericks at Xtream Arena in Coralville on Oct. 22, 2021. The Heartlanders won the game, 7-4.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

After a 1-1 opening weekend, the Iowa Heartlanders will return to the ice at Xtream Arena on Wednesday night to take on the 0-1 Wheeling Nailers.

Following their matchup with the Nailers, the Heartlanders will play back-to-back home games against the Toledo Walleye on Friday and Saturday.

All three of the Heartlanders’ games this week will start at 7 p.m.

Through two games, the Heartlanders have looked impressive, especially on offense. Iowa’s tallied 10 goals. Defenseman Billy Constantinou has scored three of those goals.

“My first couple of shifts my first game, I was a little shaky,” Constantinou said. “I was just trying to get my feet wet, but as the game went on, I thought I did pretty well. So, I’m pretty happy with how I’ve done so far.”

Constantinou was a runner-up in this week’s ECHL Player of the Week race. The Norfolk Admirals’ Alex Tonge was named ECHL Player of the Week on Tuesday afternoon.

The 2021-22 season is the first Constantinou has played as a professional. He was previously a junior hockey player in the Ontario Hockey League, skating for the Niagara IceDogs, Kingston Frontenacs, and the Soo Greyhounds.

From 2017-20, Constantinou racked up 53 OHL points.

RELATED: Iowa Heartlanders fall to Kansas City

Constantinou believes much of his success is related to the consistency of his routine on and off the ice. Before games, the 20-year-old from Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, settles into his left skate before his right. He usually eats chicken and broccoli with some pasta and alfredo sauce prior to puck drop, too.

While Constantinou’s offensive output has been impressive, he is a defenseman by position.

The Heartlanders surrendered nine goals in their first two games.

Constantinou thinks Iowa’s defense has played decently well this season.

Heartlander head coach Gerry Fleming believes his defense is still a work in progress.3

Iowa’s defense allowed fewer shots in its second game against the Kansas City Mavericks on Oct. 23 than it did in its first. Versus the Mavericks on Oct. 22, Iowa let Kansas City shoot the puck 28 times. The following day, the Mavericks only fired off 20 shots.

“Anytime you can keep the shots down, the scoring chances down, you’re trending in the right direction,” Fleming said. “So, we made improvements from Friday night to Saturday night. Hopefully, we can continue on that track. I think, over time, we’ll develop into a pretty sound, solid defensive team.”

Center Tyler Mosienko said the Heartlanders’ defensive problems start on the open ice, not between their goal posts.

Despite his reservations about Iowa’s defense, Mosienko — a 16-year pro hockey veteran — said he’s seen flashes of upside from his fellow defenders.

Mosienko was impressed with the first goal the Heartlanders scored last Friday because it started on the defensive end of the ice. Iowa’s defense thwarted a Kansas City attack and advanced the puck up the ice to set up the first-ever goal in Heartlanders’ history.

“To answer the bell like that, it just tells you, right there, what kind of group of guys are in this room,” Mosienko said. “If I had to put a word on it, I’ll just say we have a solid group of boys here.”

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